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In Search of Patience

Author: Mary Keating

For:  Family Living Magazine

Date:  February 2005

            1830 words (including sidebars)   

“Every Sunday morning is a battle,” admits Margaret Wells, mother of four children 1 to 9 years old.

“I try to do the right thing by sharing the gift of spirituality with my children,” she said, “but by the time I get everyone dressed and their hair combed and get out the door, it is all I can do to keep my mouth shut.” 

Every now and again, Wells wishes she was a different kind of mom, a mom with more patience.

She’s not alone. A poll in the September 2004 issue of “Parenting Magazine” revealed that 59 percent of mothers admit to losing their cool at least once a day and 26 percent admit to losing it a few times a day.

Many mothers wish they had more patience and could remain calm in the storm, tolerant of a toddler and perceptive of little people, all the time. But, only a Super Mom can be all those things, all the time.

The reality? Moms have bad days.

“It’s hard not to have bad moments and times of frustration when you are so invested and you care so much,” says Wells. “You feel like you have given all that you can and somehow it is not enough.”

Parents often look back at a week, a day or a mere car ride and realize they have been on the edge. The edge of screaming, the edge of hiding in a dark corner for a brief respite from the “he is touching me,” “mine,” and “mommm!”

Welcome to Club Motherhood where child rearing is wrought with endless hours of repetition, reminders, and disciplinary moments.

Now throw in guilt. Motherhood is also awash with guilt. Mothers find guilt in the most unusual places. Hiding at the gym, seeping into the morning coffee and lurking in the mere thought of a moment of pure “me-time.”

Oddly enough, a moment of pure “me-time,” a quick trip to the gym or a relaxing moment with a cup a tea just might be the first steps on the path toward patience.

Stepping Stones Toward  Patience

1. Take a Mommy Time Out

After picking up the house, doing laundry, preparing meals and running errands, it is often difficult to image a free moment in the hectic schedule for a little pampering. But taking time out is important for mothers and for families says, Patricia Blackaby, youth and family services director at The Family Services Alliance.

“In order to be a well balance parent, your needs have to be met,” says Blackaby. “Take a break from the here and now. Take ten minutes and listen to soft music, take a quick nap, indulge in a bubble bath or a pedicure. If you are depleted, you cannot give to your family and your children.”

Try taking a ten-minute time out when you are at the breaking point.

“Just be sure that the children are safe,” says Blackably

In a life filled with getting her children to school and to soccer events and to church, Wells chuckles when she talks about stealing a moment of her own. 

“It is not as easy as it sounds.  Often one moment of time alone can cost you 30 minutes of trying to put the house back together again.”

2. Talk to another Person

Some call it venting.

A friend can be invaluable when everything is bottled up. Finding a supportive, uplifting person to call can help alleviate the stress and pressures of parenting.

Just knowing that you are part of Club Motherhood can be reassuring.

“Why can’t some mothers admit to each other that they are struggling with this whole motherhood thing?” asks Wells.  “Is it a pride thing? Or is it that we are afraid to suggest that we haven’t got it all together?

“When other mothers look at you like you are an ogre or just plain crazy, it can lead to feelings of self-doubt and guilt.”

She laughs, “We have all been there!”

Ninon Germain, M.D., child psychiatrist, suggests talking to other moms when you need to vent might be a better idea than talking to spouses.

“Dads are not always the best choice.,” says Germain. “They are programmed to want to fix-it and when they can’t just fix (the problem), they often become defensive.”

3. Exercise

Going for a walk or joining a yoga class can be very energizing. Germain is a proponent of rhythmic aerobics during times of stress. Try activities such as jogging, swimming and hiking preferably outdoors. A bit of exercise can raise the level of serotonin in the brain.

“Even though I hate every minute of it and it hurts, I am a much better mother when I take 30 minutes and run with the dog,” says Wells.  Running offers her a moment to regroup and concentrate on breathing.  It is during these exercising moments when Wells reminds herself how important she really is in the lives of her children.

Wells shares her big concern.

“Ultimately, if I do not take care of myself and my health, I could risk leaving my children motherless,” she says.

4. Meditation

Deep breathing is a time tested stress reducer.

5. Manage The multitasking

“Mothers find themselves in the nightmare of multitasking,” says Blackably. “One minute they are washing dishes, the dryer sounds and they rush off to fold the clothes, and midway through the laundry, they pause and feed the cat, and so on. With all the rushing around, valuable time and energy is lost.

Blackaby suggests accomplishing one task at a time. If you cannot clean the whole house, try doing just one area. Focus on one area or accomplishment at a time if you are feeling overwhelmed.

6. Fending off last-minute crisis:

It seems inevitable when you are late to have a last minute crisis. Suddenly the toddler needs to use the bathroom or the teenager forgot his homework in his bedroom.

When the children are small, it is important to schedule extra time to get out of the house.

“You have to slow-down and plan on being ready to leave earlier to thwart the last minute crisis,” says Germain. By planning ahead, you can prevent stress.

Blackably suggests creating a place to gather all the items that will be needed when leaving the house. She had a spot on her counter where everything from keys to homework landed. Additionally, Blackaby suggests that preparing clothes and shoes and backpacks the night before can help in the morning.

7. Clutter management

It is time for a little organization and clutter management when Legos® sprout legs and wait silently outside the bathroom door in the middle of the night anticipating the high-pitched “ouch” and that little kick.

“As a parent it is important to remain as organized as you possibly can,” says Blackaby.

If the daily mess is the cause of stress, using a reward system can help, suggests Germain. Offer an incentive or a prize to older children.  But don’t lose sight of what is important. Wells says she wishes her house were tidier, but she prioritizes spending quality time with her children.

8. Understand yourself and your children

A mommy meltdown does not just appear out of nowhere. It slowly builds up. If you can figure out what causes your patience to slip; it is possible to avoid losing it completely.

Not getting enough rest? Having a bad hair day and then a bad clothes day? Maybe you are feeling rushed and overwhelmed. Overcommitted? Or frustrated by the piles of laundry and the household chores?

“There are days when the clothes don’t fit and I am worried about this or that and the stress and pressure just well up inside,” says Wells.  For her, it is important to recognize that she is off kilter and in need of a run or a moment or some pick me up time.

If you are having a bad day, don’t hesitate to let your children know. “It is important to share your feelings with your children,” says Blackably.

“Children sense when you are stressed and they pick up on your stress,” says Germain.

Understanding your children and the ages and stages can also serve to stop the mommy meltdowns.          

“Remember that children are not static individuals,” says Blackaby. “During growth spurts and learning curves, children are off kilter.”

Children are too young to understand the world inside themselves and the feelings they are experiencing. They are often irritable during spurts. Recognizing clues and subtle changes in a child can help a mother ward off meltdowns and misbehavior before they occur.

9. Remind yourself what is important

Germain reminds us “that the top priority is being a parent.”

If it means slowing down or taking a moment, ultimately that is the greatest responsibility and reward.

“At the end of the day, if the children are safe, happy and sleeping well, that is an achievement,” says Blackaby.

10. Seek additional help

If the laundry is truly crawling out of the laundry basket, the children are sticking to a juice covered floor and the creatures of guilt point their fingers and laugh when a moment of me-time is taken, it might be helpful to sign up for a parenting class or playgroup. Right now, The Family Service Alliance (232-0742) is putting together a 7- week parenting class. The cost is $35 for the seven lessons. The Bannock Youth Foundation (Family Resource Center) offers a variety of parenting classes, support groups and playgroups free of charge. Their phone is 234-1122.


 Try Using Your Five Senses to Relieve Stress

 Look: Look at a photo of a favorite person or place. Keep a list of past successes and take a moment to look at it and re-live them. Look in your children’s eyes, the hopes and dreams are there.

  • Listen: Listen to a stress-relieving mediation CD. Don’t think. Just allow the gentle sounds lead you away from the moment.
  • Touch: Massage your head, especially the temples, sinus points around the nose and under the eyes. Many people find a foot massage to be very soothing.
  • Taste: Taste the water whether it is room temperature, icy-cold, hot or hot herbal tea. If you’ve ever seen a plant wilt from too little water, you can imagine your own body and emotions also wilt from the stress of too little liquid.
  • Smell: Breath in soothing aromas. Some oils activate a relaxing, calming response from the nervous system. Among them: lavender, Melissa, rose, clary sage, ylang-ylang. Aroma therapists will be able to add to these suggestions. Also try deep meditative breathing. Breathe in the good and exhale the bad. Be sure to exhale completely through your nose, and then inhale slowly expanding your abdomen so the air can flow up into your ribcage. Keep inhaling until you feel your collarbones rise slightly. Breathe out through your nose, slowly lowering your collarbone. Relax your ribcage and slowly pull in your abdomen.

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